The Celtic people were widely respected by their Roman neighbors because they were fierce, noble, and courageous.
Celtic mythology includes Irish, Scottish, and Welsh mythology, with most being told by word-of-mouth rather than in writings.
Oftentimes, these lost and forgotten myths would intersect with both Norse mythology and Irish mythology, due to its similar geographic location.
When the Romans invaded the Celts, their culture and mythology slowly vanished.
Thus, the Celtic people adopted Roman mythology as their own.
But many oral traditions survived, even under Roman occupation.
This is the reason we have knowledge of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses and their mythical stories!
1. Danu: The Celtic Goddess of Nature
Danu is the oldest of all the Celtic deities. Danu is the mother of the gods who birthed life into all living things. She is the goddess of fertility, life, birth, wisdom, earth, and wind.
Danu’s mythology describes her as the Mother of the Tuatha De Danann, who were the Children of the Danu.
The Tuatha De Danaan had been cast out of Ireland and dispersed in various places. Danu was able to bring the Tuatha De Danann back together gave them magical skills in the process.
Once banded together, the Tuatha De Danann returned to Ireland in a magical mist carrying Danu herself.
The Tuatha De Danann came to be known as crafty, musical, poetic, and magical. They are said to have been a representation of Danu herself.
Danu’s name also means “flowing one,” making her the goddess of water and rivers. Fishermen and sailors often called upon her to help them in their feats.
2. The Celtic God of Love
Aengus means “true vigor,” and he is the Celtic god of love. Aengus was young, handsome, and strong. He was the child of Boann and Dagda. Boann was the Celtic goddess of the River Boann, and Dagda is the cheerful Celtic god.
Aengus was born in a single day because Dagda held the sun in the sky for nine months. This was because Dagda had impregnated Boann during an extra-marital affair, and he needed to conceal it.
Therefore, he made sure that Aengus was born in a single day so that his birth was concealed. Because of this, Aengus would be known for his youthfulness.
Aengus was charming and was always seen with four birds circling his head. It is said that Aengus had the ability to make any woman fall in love with him.
Aengus’s most memorable myth is the story of his dream.
Aengus was asleep and noticed the most beautiful girl had appeared at his bed. As he pulled her into his bed, she vanished.
Aengus had made himself sick, waiting for the girl to reappear. She would visit him every night but always vanish.
She did this for a year and caused Aengus to become deathly ill. Boann and Dagda both came to his aid, trying to learn what had caused their son to become so ill.
The girl was finally found, and Aengus was taken in a chariot to identify the girl that had been found as the girl who had appeared in his dreams each night.
When Aengus reached the city, he ate for three days and then finally made his way to where the girl was located.
When Aengus saw her, he told them that she was the girl from his dreams. Unfortunately, Aengus was unable to take the girl with him, so he returned home and told his father, Dagda, the news. Dagda visited the city and was welcomed by the king and queen, who allowed him to feast for seven days.
The king asked Dagda why he was there, to which Dagda replied that there was a girl in his city with whom his son had fallen in love.
The Secret of Dagda
The king was unable to give the girl to Dagda to return to his son, saying that he would need to speak to her father. Dagda fought back and questioned why he could not have the girl for his son.
The king visited the father of the girl who said that he should give his daughter to the son of Dagda.
The father protested, saying that he could not give her to the son of Dagda.
The king questioned why and the father explained that his daughter takes the form of a bird for one year and then the following year, takes the form of a human for one year.
When asked what year his daughter will be a bird, the father could not answer. After persisting, Dagda finally made her father answer that she would be a bird this year, and she could be found with beautiful swans surrounding her at the Loch Bel Dracon.
Dagda returned to his son and told him that the girl’s name was Caer and that he must call to her at the Loch Bel Dracon.
Aengus did what he was told. He went to the Loch Bel Dracon and saw white birds with silver chains and golden hair.
Aengus called out to her, to which she asked who was calling her name. Aengus replied that it was he who was calling her name. She agreed to come to him as long as he returned her to the water.
Aengus promised, and Caer appeared before him.
They embraced and slept in the form of swans as they circled the lake three times. There, they left as the form of two white birds, sang to the people, and fell asleep for three days and three nights. After this, they were no longer separated from one another, and Aengus had found his one true love.
3. Taranis: The Celtic God of Thunder
The myth and mention of Taranis has been found in Italy, Hungary, Germany, Croatia, Belgium, and France. Taranis is the Celtic equivalent of the Roman god, Jupiter. Taranis is the Celtic god of the sky who often made human sacrifices by burning prisoners.
Taranis is often referred to as the wheel god, similar to Jupiter in Roman mythology. The wheel is an important symbol in Celtic mythology, often displayed on coins. This is because wheels were often found in the ruins of sanctuaries, representing the chariots that carried the Celtic gods and goddesses.
The wheel that most represents Taranis is a wheel with 8 spokes. Artifacts with wheels have been found as far south as southeastern Europe. In addition to coins, the wheel has also been found on artwork, belt buckles, and jewelry.
4. Dagda: The Good God
Dagda was known for his leadership, good deeds, and wisdom. He was the leader of the Celtic gods and was also worshipped for his rule of the seasons, agriculture,
and fertility. Dagda possessed three important riches: a cauldron of plenty, a
club of life and death, and a harp that could control both men and seasons.
The cauldron of plenty could produce an extremely large feast. No one was ever hungry when in the presence of Dagda.
The club of life and death could slay nine men at a time, as well as revive the men.
The harp had the ability to place the season as they needed to be. If they were out of order, the harp could return them to order. The harp also had the ability to command men both through emotion as well as will.
These three riches often caused Dagda to be referred to as the god of order. He would often put both man and seasons in their rightful place.
They called him the “great god,” because of his control over a vast area of land. Dagda was an extremely large god with a long beard. They often depicted with clothes that were too small, a homage to his foolish and jovial personality.
Dagda also always possessed two pigs at all times. One pig was for roasting while the other pig was for growing. When one pig was ready to roast, Dagda would obtain another pig to grow in its place to prepare for when he would roast it.
Celtic mythology is one of the more difficult types of mythology to document, as most Celtic myths were told orally and not written. Celtic mythology can also overlap with both Irish mythology as well as Norse mythology, because of the region of the world that Celtic mythology took place.
Celtic mythology is also commonly associated with Roman mythology, as Rome invaded the Celtic region.
Since the Celts did not document their myths in writing, they slowly began to adopt Roman mythology as their own. The Celtic mythology that we know today may have Roman, Norse, and Irish mythology influences.